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The Nucleus Collection - Part 2

The Reed-McMillan Collection was detailed in the 1908 release of The National Collection of Heads and Horns Part II.

Boone and Crockett Club Member William T. Hornaday was the brainchild of the National Collection of Heads and Horns. In a letter dated March 20, 1907, Hornaday appeals to “The Sportsmen of America” to donate their best specimens to be considered for display with the “Nucleus Collection” that he, along with Madison Grant and John M. Phillips had already pulled together.

Six of the big game animals currently on display in the National Collection exhibit at Johnny Morris' Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium are from that original Nucleus Collection formed over 100 years earlier.

Sign on the National Collection building at the Bronx Zoo.

They include:

  • Woodland caribou – H. Casimir de Rham
  • American elk – Colonel Archibald Rogers
  • Alaska-Yukon moose – A.S. Reed
  • Bison – Caspar Whitney
  • Musk ox – H. Casimir de Rham
  • Non-typical mule deer – Andrew Daum

In each part of this series, we'll highlight two different trophies. 

  • Part 1 - woodland caribou and American elk
  • Part 2 - Alaska-Yukon moose and bison
  • Part 3 - non-typical mule deer and musk ox
  • Part 4 -  The Old Ones....Bison, Quebec-Labrador caribou and Canada moose
This edition includes stories about A.S. Reed’s Yukon moose (upper right) and Caspar Whitney’s bison (center). Both trophies have been on display for over 100 years in the Boone and Crockett Club's National Collection of Heads and Horns.

A.S. Reed — Alaska-Yukon Moose 

A.S. Reed was an Engishman who lived in Victoria, British Columbia from 1896 to 1902. His passion was hunting Alaska’s big game—from moose and caribou in the late-fall and early winter to bears just as they emerged from their dens in the spring. Reed’s taxidermist was one of the best in the business at the time, and he mounted a number of the finest specimens, including massive Alaska-Yukon moose, caribou, sheep, Alaskan brown bear, and walrus. 

Grancel Fitz measuring the main beam circumference on the A.S. Reed Alaska-Yukon moose (240-7/8 points) that is currently in the Boone and Crockett Club's National Collection of Heads and Horns. Not only was Fitz on the committee that developed the Club's copyrighted scoring system, but he and his wife Betty coordinated the day-to-day, records-keeping activities of the Club from their New York City apartment.

When he returned to England in 1905, Reed wasn’t going to take his trophies with him. He tried to sell the collection for $10,000, which is roughly $320,000 in 2022. No one would pay that. He reduced the price to $6,000. Still there were no takers. The collection was well-known by sportsmen in the States. Coincidentally, the National Collection of Heads and Horns was created in 1906—and growing. Reed’s collection was a must-have. Madison Grant and William Hornaday offered Reed $5,000, which did not include the bear skins. Reed refused to leave out the skins and sold it all for $5,000. 

B&C Score: 240-7/8 points
Hunter: A.S. Reed
Location: Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
Date: 1900
Donated to the National Collection of Heads and Horns by A.S. Reed

As for the moose heads in the collection, Hornaday wrote, “Thus far the largest Moose and the largest of all Moose antlers have come from the Kenai Peninsula. It was there that Mr. Reed hunted Moose in September and October, 1900, and shot the six specimens whose heads now form the most imposing feature of his collection.” At the time, only one of the moose heads had been mounted, but the skins belonging to the other five heads were a part of the collection. In Hornaday's opinion, those moose antlers in the National Collection are “...the finest pair in the world.”  

Caspar Whitney — Bison

At the turn of the twentieth century, the United States was awash with adventure seekers. Caspar Whitney was one of them. He was a war correspondent in Mexico, France, and Cuba. He even reported on the exploits of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War.

Today the Whitney bison is the centerpiece for the National Collection.

When he wasn’t reporting, Whitney was hunting. On his expedition to the wilds of northern Alberta in a futile attempt to obtain a wood bison specimen, he quickly learned he was chasing ghosts. He and his hunting partners tried for weeks to track down the elusive creatures. Their accounts of hiring local guides only added to the frustrations of brutally cold temperatures, surly dog teams and impenetrable forests.

It has long been thought that Whitney was, in fact, the hunter that killed this particular wood bison, but that just isn’t the case. Rather, that distinction goes to an already distinguished individual: Dr. William MacKay. Dr. Mackay was born in Scotland, became a surgeon and joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada. By 1867, he had moved his practice into Canada’s interior. For decades, he was the only doctor north of Edmonton.

B&C Score: 116-2/8 points
Hunter: Caspar Whitney
Location: Alberta
Date: 1907
Donated to the National Collection of Heads and Horns by Caspar Whitney

Mackay and Whitney became acquainted. From Whitney’s book, On Snow-shoes to the Barren Grounds, Whitney reveals the origins of this particular wood bison that now resides in the National Collection.

“When I was in the country in the winter of 1894-1895 not even a bison track had been seen up to the time of our hunt, and the head I obtained through the kindness of Dr. Mackay was the last one shot, and that two years before,” Whitney wrote. Fortunately, that wasn’t the last wood bison of the land.


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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt